Activist Ni Yulan has been cleared of fraud by a Beijing court, knocking two months off an ongoing 32 month jail sentence imposed in April. Ni’s legal battles against forced demolition led to the destruction of her own home, two earlier prison terms and a police beating in 2002 which left her in a wheelchair. From Reuters’ Sui-Lee Wee:
Prosecutors said previously that Ni had swindled a person out of 5,000 yuan ($780) for “fabricating her identity as a lawyer”. [Ni’s license to practice was revoked in 2002.]
The court ruled that the contributions to Ni were donations, the couple’s lawyer Cheng Hai told Reuters by telephone.
“We’ve won partially,” Cheng said. “It wasn’t easy. But if everyone persists, there’s still hope. The path of the rule of law, no matter how tough it is, is still improving.”
Cheng also reported that Ni appears “terribly malnourished”. The verdict follows US-China human rights talks in Washington earlier this week, in which Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner says Ni’s case was raised. Human Rights Watch’s Phelim Kine pointed out on Twitter, however, that while he is “Glad Ni Yulan got fraud charge tossed, [… the] spurious ‘disturbance’ conviction keeps her in prison until late 2014“. The disturbance charges, for which her husband Dong Jiqin is also serving a two year sentence, related to their refusal to check out of a hotel which Ni claims was actually a black jail.